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How ‘green’ is your smartphone? Consumers speak out

It stands that almost 70 percent of consumers are more sceptical about the global impact of tech companies ‘going green’.

Photo: © AFP
Photo: © AFP

Samsung has become the latest smartphone giant after Apple and Microsoft to announce its sustainability plan. This may include using recycled materials like ocean plastics in its future products.

Samsung’s new sustainability platform, called Galaxy for the Planet, was announced during August 2021. The strategy will focus on slashing waste from the production to the disposal of its Galaxy line of phones, tablets, watches and earbuds.

In a  statement, Samsung indicates: “Samsung is committed to creating solutions that enable a better future for our people and our planet. However, we know we cannot do this alone, and the collective fight for the planet is not a competition.”

The strategy contains a number of goals, which appear to be in-step with the modest climate goals of many countries, although the detail is light. For example, the intention to “incorporate recycled material in all new mobile products by 2025” means what exactly?

Furthermore, Samsung counter-balances its recyclables commitment by adding that it will be “taking their strength, aesthetics and durability into consideration”. Does this mean if the product cannot be rendered sleek with a rose gold cover it will not be used? Is this why no specific details have been provided?

Other statements require qualification. The commitment to “eliminate all plastics in mobile packaging by 2025” actually means not to use single-use plastics. Is the inference that plastics with the potential to be recycled (by the consumer) are suitable?

While the signs that big technology are slowly adopting more sustainable practices, it is interesting to understand what the consumer attitudes and reactions are. To identify trends, Piplsay, a global consumer research platform, polled 9,140 Britons and 30,670 Americans to get their opinion on green initiatives by smartphone brands.

In relation to the UK part of survey, the poll sought to establish the level of interest in eco-friendly smartphones. In terms of interest in such devices, the poll found that 32 percent of the UK population consider Samsung’s decision to use ocean plastic in their future products will make a huge difference to the environment. It stands that almost 70 percent are more sceptical about the global impact.

A second finding of interest is where 27 percent of the UK population are aware of smartphone makers reducing plastic usage in their packaging. However, a slightly lower proportion, at 22 percent, know about the use of recycled materials in mobile products. This suggests that smartphone manufacturers have a considerable amount of work to do in order to let the public know about their effort.

In doing so, greater publicity could pay dividends for 71 percent of the UK public state they would proactively buy from smartphone brands that are actively and realistically taking eco-friendly measures.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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